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Studying Millennials' Net Worth


Millennials are killing the housing market, so says popular culture. They're also accused of trying to get rid of credit cards, bar soap, weddings and American cheese.

KASEY LOBAUGH: There's no shortage of storylines about the millennial, and we wanted to study those to see whether or not they were true.

SIMON: Kasey Lobaugh is chief retail innovation officer at Deloitte and lead author of a new report about changing consumer preferences. He says millennials put off milestones like homebuying and marriage; they just don't have the money. He says over the past two decades, the average net worth for consumers under the age of 35 has dropped 34% to less than $8,000. That determines what they can buy.

LOBAUGH: What we really see when you look at the wallet is it's this pressure that they're under from, No. 1, their income levels are not rising, coupled with not just rising but in some cases skyrocketing nondiscretionary expenses.

SIMON: Some of those skyrocketing expenses - education costs have climbed 65% in the past decade, food and health care have gone up more than 20%. The study finds that millennials today spend significantly more on those expenses than they would have a decade ago. Discretionary spending, like movies or a dinner out, have stayed pretty much flat.

Kasey Lobaugh says retailers who want to appeal to millennials should just adjust their expectations.

LOBAUGH: I have many of my retail clients that say to me, we have to win with the millennial. But what the data really tells me is perhaps it's the millennial who's not winning.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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